"I Knew Who I was This Morning" The Hosts' Journey of Self-Discovery and Self-Reflection in the Midst of Volunteer Tourism
MetadataShow full item record
In recent years, volunteer tourism has emerged as not only a meaningful way to spend a vacation, but also as an intriguing area of empirical inquiry. This phenomenon, which began as wealthy westerners sought to give a helping hand to the less privileged, has morphed into a worldwide trend that has put destinations on the map. Little is known, however, of how intimate experiences in volunteer tourism shape the hosts’ sense of self and identity. Looking at identity formation as a process (Burke, 1991), I conducted photo elicitation interviews with rural farmers in Guatemala's San Miguel Cooperative, outside of Antigua Guatemala. This study was an effort to understand the maintenance of identities in the presence of volunteer tourists and how the host self is impacted after the tourists have returned home. The study focuses on two main objectives. First, exploring how the intimacy of volunteer tourism and the presence of volunteer tourists helps to form and maintain host personal identity, and second, understanding how these identities are negotiated and maintained after the departure of volunteer tourists. Through this qualitative approach, I aimed to give a voice to the unheard host, telling and sharing the story of those whose voices are often overshadowed. The narrow scope of this study, however, emphasizes only one construct in a multi-dimensional, postcolonial relationship that will require constant scrutiny and progress. Over the course of 12 interviews, using photos to guide the conversation, we are able to better understand the progression of the host self, their journey from discomfort to confidence. The hosts’ experience with volunteer tourism proved to be a journey that bred feelings of oppression, nervousness, and disconnection but was met with a concluding positivity. Despite inciting these detrimental feelings, the volunteer tourism journey offered the hosts an opportunity to reevaluate their understanding of their self and prosper in the immediate situation and beyond. We learned that, despite the neocolonialistic nature of volunteer tourism (Palacios, 2010), the hosts are able to overcome oppressive dynamics and persist with a more positive view of the self and a new understanding of societies beyond their own.
Hollas, Chadley Richard (2019). "I Knew Who I was This Morning" The Hosts' Journey of Self-Discovery and Self-Reflection in the Midst of Volunteer Tourism. Master's thesis, Texas A&M University. Available electronically from